2006 was a typically prolific year for guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy. Along with the acoustic project Roundabout, Keaggy released Jammed! - an appropriately titled collection of live electric jams that have been recorded over the past 35 years. Forming a perfect document of what Keaggy can do on an electric guitar, its focus on the live, spontaneous side of his playing is a refreshing alternative to his more polished studio albums of late.
Starting off with a couple of rocking numbers, "Route Canal" and "Phlagan's Flow," Phil's love for blistering solos and arena-ready riffs are obvious. The influence of the long-forgotten guitar era of the 1970s and '80s is readily apparent in Keaggy's sound ("Blueberry Jam" easily sounds like it could have graced the intro of any Boston song from its heyday), but he also delves into other styles of playing throughout Jammed! "Zee Blues" and "Watt Ever" follow less of a rock and more of an electric blues format, while "Prehistrobie K-18" and "Joyphil" show a more subtle side to Keaggy's passionate playing - the latter offering an electric take on the immortal melody of Beethoven's "Ode To Joy."
All of the songs sound great despite the lack of vocals and are perfectly constructed to highlight Keaggy's amazing command of the strings. Melody and fluidity are always an integral part to his playing and Keaggy's showmanship never overshadows what is essentially his biggest strength: the ability to incorporate melody into even his most technically proficient solo. His playing is flashy without being excessive, technical yet tasteful, and always tuneful. Even in his lengthier excursions, Keaggy never bores. The nine-minute long "Kegworth Speaks" is a perfect blend of bluesy licks, layered solos, and tonal variations that he runs off with casual ease.
With its live setting and its delightfully "punny" song titles, Jammed! is a better testament to Phil Keaggy's remarkable six-string prowess than his experimental, yet mildly uneven acoustic effort Roundabout. Fans of his patented brand of guitar instrumentalism will no doubt want to hear this one!- Review date: 2/8/07 by Sherwin Frias
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